Dr. David Michaels
Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Occupational Safety and Health
Press Teleconference on National Safety Stand-down
1 p.m. EDT Monday, June 2, 2014
Thank you all for joining us as we talk about this important nationwide event. This week, across the country, employers and workers are voluntarily stopping work to focus on achieving safe working conditions and saving workers' lives by preventing fatal falls. With this stand-down, we are reaching more workers, more businesses, and a wider variety of workplaces than ever before.
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry-279 workers lost their lives in 2012 in falls from heights and more than 8,800 construction workers were seriously injured by falls. Lack of fall protection is also the most frequently cited OSHA violation. These falls cause enormous pain and suffering-and we must do everything we can to prevent them.
As Secretary Perez mentioned, we are thrilled to be joining with 25,000 businesses across the country in this unprecedented partnership to raise awareness among employers and workers about the hazards of falls - and the common sense steps necessary to prevent these tragedies. The reach of this effort is unprecedented with more than 1 million workers expected to participate in stand-down events in all 50 states.
During this week, OSHA is partnering with the Associated General Contracts, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Roofing Contractors Association, the Steel Erection Association, over ten International Unions including the Carpenters, the Laborers Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Ironworkers Union , CPWR, - The Center for Construction Research and Training, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, State OSHA programs in all parts of the country, community organizations, faith based organizations, universities and many other organizations nationwide.
There are hundreds of events happening all across the country this week. Here are just a few:
- Tomorrow in Palo Alto, California, Clark Construction will be hosting a stand-down at the Stanford University Medical Center with OSHA bay area staff.
- On Wednesday, OSHA's Deputy Assistant Secretary will be out on Daytona Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida with racecar driver Greg Biffle to do a fall protection harness demonstration with hundreds of construction workers -emphasizing the need to provide the right equipment to prevent deadly falls.
- In Nebraska, our Omaha staff is teaming with the Heartland Workers Center to host a free fall prevention progam for the public at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
- And in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the YouthBuild Boston group will be hosting a stand-down with our Braintree area office to reach out to under-served young people; young and new workers are especially vulnerable - and we want to a make sure that no one's first day on the job is their last.
- Our Honolulu Area Director will join Nordic PCL Construction for a stand-down event at their condominium project, and there will be other events across five different islands covering fall protection, ladder safety, inspecting fall gear, and wearing gear properly.
- In Kentucky, a series of stand downs are expected to attract more than 700 attendees, including the Commissioner of Workplace Standards, Anthony Russell and Deputy Secretary Rocky Comito.
- Maryland OSHA has organized a series of six events across the state; in fact so many people called to register that the organizers had to add more activities to accommodate this high demand.
- There are also dozens of outdoor billboards across the country promoting stand-downs locally, including in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Arizona.
- And just a few days ago, I received an email from a solar panel farm-out in the Mojave Desert-who thanked us for what we're doing. They were excited to tell us about the stand-down they've organized with more than 2,000 skilled craft workers they have on site.
This week's stand-down grew out of our Fall Prevention Campaign. We first kicked off the campaign in 2012 in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and representatives of labor and management groups like the National Occupational Research Agenda and CPWR
We started this campaign together because, as Secretary Perez said, year after year falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers. Hundreds of workers die in falls every year - and thousands more are seriously injured and disabled. The campaign focuses on falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds, which accounted for more than a third of all fall fatalities in the construction industry in 2012. And these injuries and deaths--- these tragedies -- are preventable.
Our message is "safety pays and falls cost." We emphasize planning ahead and providing the right equipment- such as guard rails or safety harnesses, lines and anchors, and training all employees. These simple steps can save lives. Whether working on roofs or scaffolds, climbing ladders, or performing any work from heights - falls can be prevented with the right equipment and training.
In stand-down events across the country this week our partners will be using the materials we produced over the last few years, including what we call "toolbox talks," which supervisors can follow to train their workers on fall prevention requirements. Our materials are in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian, and include posters, factsheets, safety videos, stickers and web materials.
These materials use plain language and clear illustrations to ensure that workers get the information they need. Providing effective training in a language and vocabulary workers understand and complying with OSHA's fall prevention requirements is critical to preventing falls.
All of our materials reinforce our message that Safety Pays and Falls Cost. Falls are devastating enough - the toll they take on workers, families, coworkers, and communities - and all that without considering that workers compensation costs from one serious fall could put a small company out of business.
The nation's largest provider of workers compensation data-the National Council on Compensation Insurance-found that falls from heights in construction can result in such serious injuries that the average workers compensation cost to employers is close to $100,000 per case.
OSHA doesn't want to see any worker or any company suffer because they didn't have the information they needed to prevent fatal falls and serious injuries. OSHA wants businesses to protect their bottom line, and employers to keep workers safe.
As you've heard us mention several times, the number of businesses and workers partnering with OSHA in this week's events is unprecedented and we want the impact to be unmatched as well - our goal this week is to save more lives and prevent more injuries than ever before. We're bringing everyone together for this National Stand-down so that we can bring workers home safe at the end of the day.